Sounds True: When we think of Buddhist spiritual practice, most of us think of sitting meditation. But you teach a form of Buddhist yoga, is that right?
Lama Surya Das: Yes, Tibetan energy yoga. It's based on the six yogas of Tibetan Buddhism brought from India over one thousand years ago by Padmasambhava, the enlightened sage who founded Tibetan Buddhism. Because of this knowledge of the body's internal energy system, Tibetan Buddhists practice both the “inner yogas” of silent meditation as well as the “outer yogas” of movement, chant, and gestures of awareness. It's the only form of yoga taught in any Buddhist tradition.
Sounds True: How is Tibetan energy yoga used as part of one's daily practice?
Lama Surya Das: It's used to ground, focus, and purify us. It's a very important prelude to silent meditation. I think of it as “yoga for meditators.” At the same time, energy yoga is beneficial even for those who don't meditate regularly.
Sounds True: How does Tibetan medicine view the human energy system?
Lama Surya Das: Tibetan culture is closely linked to Indian culture, so it has a similar understanding of the chakras, the pranic life force, and the nadi energy channels. Tibetan energy yoga works specifically with the body's lunar and solar energies, our receptive female energy and our active male energy. By doing these exercises, we rebalance and re-harmonize these flows through our network of energy channels, and unify those two energies within the central channel of the body.
Sounds True: What can one expect from these practices?
Lama Surya Das: If you undertake this 30-minute routine as a daily—:or at least “dailyish”—:practice, I believe that it will absolutely change your life. It will restore and balance your body's energies, elevate your moods, and focus and clarify your mind. I've seen them do this again and again among those who begin doing these exercises.
Sounds True: In addition to energy yoga, Tibetan Buddhism is also the only Buddhist tradition to teach a complete dreamwork practice. Why practice this dream yoga?
Lama Surya Das: Tibetan mystical texts such as the Wheel of Luminosity and the Tibetan Book of the Dead teach that when we awaken within the dream at night, we can learn also to awaken to the illusory nature of the “daytime dream” that we call waking reality. So enlightenment would be the ultimate purpose of dream yoga.
The teachings also speak of “the twenty benefits of dream yoga.” Among them are: overcoming our fears and loosening our inhibitions within the “training ground” of our dreams, solving problems in the dream state, and enhancing our faculties of creativity and imagination.
Sounds True: Could you teach us one of these techniques?
Lama Surya Das: OK. When you are ready to go to sleep, relax and close your eyes. Now, concentrate on the subtle inner light behind your eyelids. Meditate into that light as if it were a vast sky or moon. What you're trying to do is “brighten” your awareness as you're going to sleep, rather than darkening it. While you do this, silently repeat a firm and strong intention to awaken within the dream, such as: “May I awaken within the dream tonight for the benefit of all dreaming, dreamlike beings.” Be patient with yourself. Just do it every night, or as often as you can, and see what happens.